"Chocolate has a long sacred history in Indigenous recipes beginning with the Mayans, Aztecs, and other communities of the Yucatán Peninsula, where cacao beans have always grown wild. Cacao has been integral to Indigenous ceremony and cuisine - from drinks to mole sauces and spice rubs."
- Chef Freddie Bitsoie
Have you ever thought about what it would taste like to combine a hearty home-cooked chili with a sweet, chocolate dessert? Well, I had never. But now, as I sit here enjoying this chocolate chili, I wish I had thought about it sooner.
We like it so much, we've included free printable recipe cards with pictures for pre-readers on up. It's waiting for you at the end of this post or you can use the table of contents below.
Learn more about cooking with kids.
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This chocolate chili with bison recipe is one of many delicious recipes from New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian. If you like this chili, you'll love picadillo, three sisters bean stew, and pumpkin bread pudding.
It's savory. But sweet. It's dinner. And dessert?? Could be.
The cookbook is part of our collection of books by Indigenous authors and we really appreciate all the opportunities to dive deeper into the subject matter while we make our way through modern recipes, such as this chocolate bison chili, that honor traditional Native American food.
We're getting lots of practical life experience in the kitchen mixed with history, science, culture, conservation, delicious dishes, and more.
Stop by our shop to see more Family & Kids' Cooking Resources.
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As we try out recipes and read through this book, we're learning about North America, Indigenous cultures, Native American cuisine, wildlife, and even some lesser-known ingredients.
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What is Chocolate Chili with Bison?
Chocolate chili is a stew that combines chili (beans, peppers, tomatoes, etc.) with chocolate and includes ground bison. Chocolate can come in several forms, such as cocoa powder or chocolate chips. This recipe calls for semisweet chocolate chips.
Lily's no-sugar-added semi-sweet style baking chips are a healthy alternative to regular semisweet chocolate chips. They're sweetened with Stevia so you can still get all the flavor without the sugar.
Are Bison and Buffalo the Same?
No, bison and buffalo are different. While both are members of the Bovidae family, bison and buffalo are not the same species of animal. In fact, they are located in different parts of the world and also have differences in their appearance.
The name buffalo was incorrectly used to identify bison when French fur trappers encountered them in the 1600s, and it just kinda stuck. Instead of buffalo, try tatanka instead.
According to the National Park Service:
"Another name for these animals is 'tatanka.' Tatanka is the Lakota word for bison. Bison are incredibly important in Lakota culture; the Lakota are traditionally nomadic and would have spent their lives following bison before Euro-Americans settled the West. Another word for bison in Lakota is 'pte.' The Lakota are sometimes known as pte oyate, meaning 'buffalo nation.'”- National Park Service
Learn more about bison, buffalo, and tatanka.
My kids jump at any opportunity to learn about wildlife. National Parks of the USA is an excellent resource for learning about bison and other magnificent creatures across the country. There's even a brief history of national parks describing the vital role they play in conservation efforts.
Did you know that the Director of the National Park Service, Charles F. “Chuck” Sams III, is Native American? The National Park Service shares:
"Sams is Cayuse and Walla Walla and is an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in Northeast Oregon, where he grew up. He also has blood ties to the Cocopah Tribe and Yankton Sioux of Fort Peck."- National Park Service
Looking for a hands-on activity to pair with the book? The Mirus Toys USA Map Puzzle provides a beautiful, all-natural representation of the US map. The puzzle inserts are made of Alder, Cherry, Ash, Aspen, Walnut, & African Padauk. We think it's a perfect fit with National Parks of the USA or this Maps book.
This United States printable pack includes activities for learning names, facts, and flags for every state. You'll find matching and handwriting activities, as well as a map for preschool and elementary environments.
Which is Better: Bison vs. Beef?
New Native Kitchen includes a handy comparison of bison and beef to help you choose. While beef may be more accessible and affordable, you can see that environmental conditions and treatment of these animals influences many consumers to add bison to their shopping lists.
Personally, we love cooking with bison. It always looks bright and healthy in the package, compared to some other things you might come across in the aisles of your favorite grocery store.
When we cook with bison, I'm confident in the quality of the meat I'm feeding my kids. To me, that makes it worth the slightly higher cost and it's a regular on our shopping list.
How Long Should You Cook Chocolate Chili with Bison?
That depends on how you like your chili. We cooked ours for an hour total until it reached the desired consistency. However, you may find that you need more or less depending on how thick you like it.
Chocolate Chili with Bison: An Indigenous Food Experience
This chocolate chili recipe is absolutely delicious, it's great for busy families, and it's easy enough for kids to make. It also offers plenty of opportunities to extend the learning with your favorite topics.
Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults includes a mix of captivating illustrations, black-and-white photography, and thought-provoking quotes displayed in beautiful frames of sweetgrass. There are also questions for the reader, definitions, and translations throughout.
If you're looking for more Indigenous resources, you can't go wrong with this collection of books by Indigenous authors.
Free Chinuk Wawa and English Language Cards
Grab your free Chinuk Wawa - English Language Cards complete with a sorting activity to go with this delicious chocolate chili. Translations are from the FREE Chinuk Wawa App and explore an Indigenous language of the Pacific Northwest.
Kids can sort the cards into rows or columns using the heading cards: traditional food and equipment. The colors of the cards provide a control of error so that kids can self-correct when completing this work independently.
These sorting cards also make excellent three-part cards for introducing new vocabulary. To use these as 3-part cards, simply print two copies of the printable and then cut the labels off the cards on one of the copies. Children can match the picture and then match the label as they show readiness.
- bell pepper
- bay leaf
- ground bison
- black pepper
- tomato paste
- ground cumin
- ground coriander
- cayenne pepper
- kidney beans
- bison or beef stock
- semisweet chocolate chips - we went for traditional semi-sweet chocolate chips but we also like Lily's baking chips
- prep bowls
- child-friendly knife
- cutting board
- wooden spoon
- dutch oven - this 9-qt dutch oven will work if you have a large family or do a lot of batch cooking. This 5.5-qt dutch oven is my favorite for regular use.
1. Prep the Onion, Garlic, and Bell Pepper
Using a cutting board and knife, chop the onion, dice the bell pepper, and mince the garlic. We used already minced garlic in oil.
If you like peppers, you should try aloo chaat.
The kids love chopping up ingredients during meal prep. This bell pepper was fun to examine as we talked about the anatomy of a pepper.
2. Gather the Ingredients and Head to the Stove
Grab all the ingredients and head to the stove. Don't forget the cookbook, if you have it. Lots of opportunities for exploration between recipe steps.
We read The American Bison section of the cookbook to learn more about these giant land animals. You can find lots of great info about bison, including their history as well as conservation and restoration efforts, inside the cookbook.
3. Turn On the Stove and Add Oil
Turn the stove on medium heat and add the oil.
4. Add Onion, Garlic, Bell Pepper, Thyme, and Bay Leaf
When the dutch oven and oil are hot, add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, thyme, and bay leaf.
This is a good time to talk about the plan for the thyme sprigs (if you used them) and bay leaf.
The kids think it's really cool that you take out the thyme sprigs and bay leaf when everything is cooked. At various points during this experience, they decided to look and see if they could find the bay leaf hidden amongst the ingredients.
This savory cabbage pie combines cooking and baking skills.
5. Stir it all Together
Stir it all together with a spoon. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the mixture is soft.
6. Add the Bison, Salt, and Pepper for Making Chocolate Chili
Add the bison, salt, and pepper to the dutch oven. Use a wooden spoon to break it up and sear the meat. Cook for 8 minutes. Wash your hands.
At this point, Noah ducked out of the learning tower to wash his hands after handling the meat. They can hop in and out of the learning tower really easily and I like that it provides a sturdy platform to stand on. This way, they can focus their attention on the stove and not their feet.
7. Add Tomato Paste, Cumin, Coriander, Paprika, Cayenne, and Diced Tomatoes
Using measuring spoons as needed, add tomato paste, cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne, and diced tomatoes. The tomato paste should brown but not burn.
This is also when Kaiai and Noah get creative with tomato paste and storytelling as they tell me they cut their fingers.
The kids love using measuring spoons. Sometimes they use the leveler that comes with it, and sometimes they prefer their fingers. They're comfortable handling various spices and peppers but you can always assist your child as needed.
Deglaze the bottom of the dutch oven with the juice of the diced tomatoes. In other words, the juice can free up the pieces of food stuck to the bottom of the dutch oven.
8. Add the Beans and Stock
To make the chocolate chili, add the kidney beans and stock to the dutch oven. If you use a 1 or 2-cup measuring cup as we do, this is an excellent opportunity for math in practical life. The child works through adding a total of 3 cups of stock to the pot.
9. Turn the Heat Up to a Boil
We use medium-high heat for this step. Boil for 5 minutes and then reduce heat to low. Be sure to turn the heat down before the beans lose their shape.
10. Add Chocolate and Let Simmer
Let it simmer uncovered until the chili reduces to a stew consistency. For us, that was about 40 minutes. Give the chocolate chili a good stir occasionally. We ate a few leftover chocolate chips while we waited and explored the cookbook further.
11. Remove the Thyme and Bay Leaf & Enjoy
Turn off the stove. Remove the thyme and bay leaf. Enjoy! We found that being out in nature is a great way to enjoy this incredibly savory and sweet chocolate chili.
We actually made this on a weeknight and enjoyed it for several days as leftovers.
Conclusion for Chocolate Chili with Bison
We hope you enjoyed seeing how we make chocolate bison chili. It's a great meal to make together while learning about Indigenous food. I highly recommend New Native Kitchen for all families, but especially homeschools, as it nurtures a holistic experience with time spent in the kitchen.
Furthermore, if you've ever stressed about what to make for dinner and dessert on an already busy day with 1, 2, 3, 4, or however many littles you have, drop what you're doing and print. this. chocolate chili recipe.
Better yet, buy New Native Kitchen by Chef Freddie Bitsoie and James O. Fraioli. It's filled with beautiful photography and recipes you will want to try with your family.
Free Chocolate Chili Recipe for Pre-Readers and Up
Don't forget to grab your free printable recipe cards above. Kids can gather ingredients using the ingredient list and prepare the meal using the step-by-step recipe cards, with assistance as needed.
The cards are easy to use, include pictures, and encourage confidence and independence in the kitchen. They also make an excellent addition to your Montessori continent box for North America.
Montessori Continent Boxes
Explore every continent with these solid maple hardwood boxes.
More Native American Educational Resources
- Family and Kids Cooking Resources: Different Food Cultures
- Teaching Hard History: American Slavery
- 7 Indigenous People in STEM You Should Know
Chocolate Chili with Bison: An Indigenous Food Experience
- Learning Tower as needed
- 1 tablespoon Avocado Oil
- 1 Yellow Onion large
- 3 cloves Garlic minced
- 1 Green Bell Pepper seeded and diced
- 1 ½ teaspoon Thyme or 3 sprigs fresh
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 lb Ground Bison
- Black Pepper
- 1 tablespoon Tomato Paste
- 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1 teaspoon Ground Coriander
- 2 teaspoon Paprika
- ½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 14 oz Diced Tomatoes with Juice
- 14 oz Kidney Beans
- 3 cups Bison or Beef Stock
- 1 ¼ cups Semisweet Chocolate Chips
- Prep the onion, garlic, and bell pepper. Using a cutting board and knife, chop the onion, dice the bell pepper, and mince the garlic. Use this as an opportunity to talk about the anatomy of a pepper, including the stem, calyx, seeds, and locules. Compare pepper varieties and the heat associated with each one.
- Gather the ingredients and head to the stove. Don't forget the cookbook. Lots of great opportunities for learning between recipe steps, including sections on bison.
- Turn on the stove on medium heat and add oil.
- When the dutch oven and oil are hot, add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, thyme, and bay leaf. This is a good time to talk about the plan for the thyme sprigs (if you used them) and bay leaf.
- Stir it all together with a spoon. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the mixture is soft.
- Add the bison, salt, and pepper to the dutch oven. Use a wooden spoon to break it up and sear the meat. Cook for 8 minutes. Wash your hands.
- Using measuring spoons as needed, add tomato paste, cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne, and diced tomatoes. The tomato paste should brown but not burn. Deglaze the bottom of the dutch oven with the juice of the diced tomatoes. In other words, the juice can free up the pieces of food stuck to the bottom of the dutch oven
- To make the chocolate chili, add the kidney beans and stock to the dutch oven. If you use a 1 or 2 cup measuring cup as we do, this is a great opportunity for math in practical life. The child works through adding a total of 3 cups of stock to the pot.
- Turn the heat up to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes and then reduce heat to low. Be sure to turn the heat down before the beans lose their shape.
- Add chocolate and let simmer uncovered until the chili reduces to a stew consistency. Give the chocolate chili a good stir occasionally.
- Turn off the stove. Remove the thyme and bay leaf. Enjoy!
- Cook to internal temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
- See more guidelines at USDA.gov.
- Full Lesson Info and Pictures at: https://happyhomeschooladventures.com/chocolate-chili
Estimated nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is not guaranteed.